Eric Peterson, Published December 21 2011
NDSU hasn’t fared well at Williams Arena
North Dakota State is winless in the five men’s basketball games that its played against Minnesota at Williams Arena since the Bison became a Division I program.
The Gophers have a nearly 20-point average margin of victory in those games. NDSU has shot a combined 36 percent from the floor during that stretch.
“The big key is Williams Arena is a tough venue for a lot of people,” said Bison head coach Saul Phillips. “They have been outstanding at home so far this year. Not a whole lot of people have even kept it close there.”
The Bison (8-2) hope to shake their Barn blues at 7 p.m. today when they play the Gophers (11-1) who are 9-0 at Williams this season.
“This group doesn’t care,” Phillips said. “They see it as an opportunity to go out and play a Big Ten team, and for a lot of them, a Big Ten team in their home state.”
Sophomore Marshall Bjorklund is one of the Bison playing back in his home state. He played prep basketball at Sibley East in Arlington, Minn.
Bjorklund scored eight points and grabbed five rebounds against the Gophers last season. Minnesota scored an 84-65 win in that matchup.
“We try to treat it like any other game, but of course a lot of kids being from Minnesota and being told from them we’re not good enough, too small, whatever, kind of gives us a little bit of an edge going into the game,” said Bjorklund, who has an aunt who works in the Gophers hockey department.
The Summit League has fared well against big-time opponents this season.
Oakland has a victory against Tennessee, Oral Roberts won at Xavier and South Dakota State earned a win at the University of Washington. Those wins have helped the Summit ascend to an all-time best No. 11 rating in the Collegiate Basketball News RPI rankings and a No. 12 spot in the Sagarin Ratings.
“This league has quietly and methodically worked its way up the food chain in Division I,” Phillips said. “It’s a great thing for our league. … A rising tide raises all ships.”
The Bison hope they can add another signature win to this season’s Summit resume tonight.
Minnesota has won its last five games, despite losing senior forward and preseason third-team All-American Trevor Mbakwe for the season with a knee injury.
“Tubby (Smith) has done a terrific job of keeping the ship together,” Phillips said of the Gophers head coach. “They, as a group, have really rallied around each other and they are playing terrific basketball right now.”
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